As Contrary As Possible: The “Anti-Player” Music of Crazy Doberman

by | Nov 19, 2018 | MUSIC

Free-form psychedelic band Crazy Doberman‘s on-again, off-again presence in Richmond has galvanized the local experimental music scene. The group has played several shows this year alongside Richmond DIY noise and experimental musicians. 

Crazy Doberman features a revolving door of collaborators in addition to the original seven-piece lineup, but not all the members play during every show and recording. Performances can consist of an ensemble of ten or more players, or as little as two.

Drew Davis, a founding member of Crazy Doberman, moved to Richmond earlier this year from the group’s de facto home base of Lafayette, Indiana, and joined up with local artists for several performances. 

“We’ve always had an open-door policy for collaborations, but it’s still very much a core group of individuals,” Davis said. 

The band has been touring and recording for several years now, with recent releases on underground labels I Dischi Del Barone, The Loki Label, and Radical Documents. Their upcoming self-titled album is set to be released on Danish label Mastermind Records in early 2019. 

The group’s performances utilize disparate elements of free jazz, industrial, and electronic noise to construct unstable and unpredictable musical environments. Every performance is completely improvised, and can range widely in tone and aesthetic from one performance to the next. 

PHOTO: Crazy Doberman

The musicians in the band are largely untrained in their instruments, and have no interest in learning how to play them in a conventional manner. Davis plays trumpet and trombone, which he picked up shortly before the band started. 

“We’re coming from a total anti-player worldview, having no prior knowledge or experience, just playing from the gut,” Davis said. 

The band takes particular inspiration from 60’s and 70’s free-music collectives like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Black Artists Group, and free jazz artists on the Actuel Records roster. Like many of those artists, Crazy Doberman adheres to a doctrine of absolute artistic freedom, although they’ve sought to distance themselves from the ‘free jazz’ label. 

“Free jazz has its own system. We are aware of this and try to be as contrary as possible,” core member John Olson said in an interview with Slovenian magazine It’s Psychedelic, Baby!

Crazy Doberman’s core group of performers attribute much of their sonic exploration to psychedelic drugs, which they regularly use during performances, recordings and rehearsals. According to Davis, it’s helped them develop their style both as a collective unit and as individuals. 

“I ate acid religiously for our first year; in practice, in shows, and on tour,” Davis said. “Not everyone in the crew is an acid-eater, but for a handful of us, it was completely imperative to learning how to play with one another… It allowed me to find my voice, especially live, and to find these wormholes in a heavy trip where I could play with these other players.” 

PHOTO: Crazy Doberman

The group had its beginnings as an industrial and power electronics group under the name Doberman, but changed its name to Crazy Doberman after joining forces with Olson. Since then, the group’s sound has evolved into the free-form improvisational unit that it is today. 

Doberman was the first creation. Crazy is when the ‘thing’ is let loose into the ether,” Olson said. 

Doberman had only a few scattered releases before it evolved into Crazy Doberman, but under the new name they’ve released more than 20 tapes and records. They released their first full-length record, Free LSD, in 2017, and a seven-inch record, Rust Clatter for the Midwest Sun, this past August on I Dischi Del Barone. 

The band is preparing for the release of their self-titled second full-length on Mastermind Records in early 2019, and is planning a European tour in support of the record. 

Daniel Berti

Daniel Berti

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